What Makes a Truly Great Brand

By August 25, 2021 Inspiration

I’ve spent most of my career helping companies build great brands, from startups to Fortune 500 enterprises. While every company has unique DNA, there are common, yet critical, components necessary to elevate a company from a good brand to a great one, regardless of company size.

In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as an outsourced CMO to Calyx, a Cleveland IT solutions provider for modern businesses. They’ve openly embraced me as part of their family, which has enabled significant insight into their operation, and most importantly, what powers them to perform at the high level they do. In my 25+ years as an owner of a branding and design firm, Calyx stands out among the elite brands I’ve worked with. In this article, we’ll explore the key components that great brands embody, with insight into how Calyx has elevated its brand to become a leader in a highly competitive space.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a point of clarification regarding a brand versus a logo. Many confuse a company’s brand with its logo. While there’s no doubt that a logo helps build a strong brand identity and familiarity, it does not make a brand. Farmers used to brand their cattle to depict ownership, thus the association with identity or marking. But in modern business, the term has taken on significant new meaning — an authentic representation of the company behind the logo, what they stand for, and the experience they deliver.

A great brand must embody a combination of several factors, from the promises it makes and delivers to its stakeholders, how it’s positioned in the market relative to competitors, what it inspires, and how it communicates. We explore them here.

Their brands are built from the inside out

Many companies focus their branding efforts on external communications — a common function of marketing. The most successful brands foster a culture where employees, as the most influential brand ambassadors, believe in, celebrate, and are passionate about delivering on the brand’s promise. Get that right and the rest follows.

As with most B2B businesses, your most valuable strategic asset is your people. Calyx makes a promise to every client that they’ll deliver a fully managed and supported IT solution that will make their lives easier and their business more productive and profitable. It’s a tall order. Fulfilling this promise requires an operational philosophy that relies on people with natural talent and a real passion for their work. Why? Because the right people commit to embrace and live their core values: do the right thing, own it, and challenge everything. In doing so, the Calyx team supports its purpose of simplifying IT and creating a better way for clients to do business. 

They know and understand their audience

It’s been said that great organizations know exactly who they are and what makes them unique. But most importantly, they understand why it matters to their target audiences.

It’s no secret that technology continues to grow and evolve at an alarming pace, and the complexity of managing IT grows with it. All businesses face increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity challenges. In 2020, businesses were forced to pivot to accommodate staff in a remote workspace. Productivity relies heavily on users having access to their applications and data. Managing all of this takes time and expertise, and without a proper IT partner in place, can cost a company many thousands, or even millions, in lost productivity.

For Calyx, the ability to forecast and manage IT demands has always been a unique differentiator. Calyx was early to adopt a cloud-first approach in 2010 and has spent millions optimizing their Framework platform ever since. They know and understand the unique needs of their audiences, whether it’s a law firm, accounting firm, or manufacturer of national defense equipment. They ask complex questions about what’s working and what isn’t and get to simple, yet elegant, solutions.

They create ways to make customer’s lives better

Apple’s iPhone makes life easier for many by providing a better way to connect and access the world on the go. Southwest Airline’s purpose is to “connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

While Calyx isn’t a household name like Apple or Southwest, they are no less committed to building a great brand that impacts their customers every day. The mission of Calyx is simply to “create a better way” for clients. It’s about delivering truly transformative solutions that make clients’ businesses better. They’ve previously written about it here. Ironically, they’ll tell you that it’s less about the technology and more about the “why.” Getting IT right is about simplifying everything. They work to eliminate complexity and streamline IT administration, all with a predictable IT spend. Doing it right means delivering an easier, more elegant, IT experience with better speed and performance. Finally, keeping it right means they’ve always their client’s back. Their ability to provide exceptional support whenever it’s needed improves productivity, efficiency, and business agility. 

They earn loyalty and trust by doing what they say they’ll do

I’ve often seen “brand” defined as “a promise” that an organization makes to its stakeholders. I disagree. It’s one thing to make a promise. That’s advertising. It’s quite another to deliver on it. That’s a brand. The strongest brands deliver on the promises made to their stakeholders at every interaction.

Calyx’s commitment to “simplify IT” is more than a clever marketing message. Every aspect of their business is modeled around their drive to lift the veil on IT managed services. Why? Because, by removing barriers, they make it simple for people to have a more productive relationship with technology. Frankly, they want their customers to love their IT. They even go so far as to measure happiness as a key indicator of the health of their relationships with clients. You can read more about it here.

Walt Ely, Customer Experience Manager, states “Calyx prides itself on the exceptional support that we deliver. We want our customers to really love their IT, and if they don’t, we’re there to fix what may be broken. We monitor, maintain, proactively troubleshoot, and even predict failures and replace hardware before failure occurs. It’s quite simple: when we can reduce IT hassle and disruption, we increase customer happiness and satisfaction.”

They consider the entire brand experience

All too often, brands fall into the trap of overpromising and underdelivering. And that’s the beauty of branding — you can’t fake authenticity. Thanks to social media, word of mouth, and a more informed consumer, it’s easier than ever before to qualify the integrity of a brand. Businesses must fulfill the promises they make or risk losing trust.

Many brands tend to focus on the awareness and sales stages of the customer relationship and fail to consider the brand experience after the sale — the “ownership” phase of the customer journey.

Calyx knows the critical importance of ensuring a good fit with clients. To do this, they seek alignment in three key areas — cultural, philosophical, and financial — as a foundation for mutual success. Without it, they don’t move forward. With it, they’re better able to work in harmony toward mutual goals. In the sales stage, they build clear objectives and set expectations. They offer an “everything’s included” model, simple per-user pricing, month-to-month contracts, and a money-back guarantee. New clients are ensured a seamless and minimally disruptive onboarding process. As clients, they receive service and support from some of the best in the industry.

Wrapping up

Building a great brand takes passion and an unwavering commitment for the long haul. It doesn’t happen overnight. As with any relationship, building trust requires time and patience. While there are many ways to go about establishing brand loyalty, the five factors presented here are game-changers: Build your brand from the inside out. Know your audience intimately. Make customer’s lives better. Do what you say you’ll do. And consider the entire brand experience. Do each of these well and you’ll be on your way to brand success.